Planting the seeds for an emergent development system

26 May 2023


Loreine B. Dela Cruz, Executive Director, Center for Disaster Preparedness

At the Center for Disaster Preparedness (CDP) in The Philippines, we have always dreamed of contributing to system change in development. But we were also conscious that persuading and encouraging those in the status quo will always be difficult as they wittingly or unwittingly contribute to perpetuating the system we seek to transform. We believed that only in planting a new system through prototyping new ways of doing things such as grantmaking, transforming revolutionary concepts into practice, that new praxis and models will gradually and ultimately make the existing system obsolete thereby giving birth to a new system.

This is definitely a lonely battle, but it’s worth the investment. In doing this, we count on the many kindred spirits that only need to tag along and connect to push the change-momentum forward.

However, with decolonizing aid and #ShiftThePower becoming an agenda of the Southern NGOs globally, CDP decided to contribute to this. As a true-blue organization, it took actions to make this call real in our context, and to make it work towards system change for a good society in favour of marginalized peoples. In a way, the pace and commitment for change has already been accelerated. The efforts to shift the leadership of humanitarian action to national and local actors and putting communities at the center of the work has, in the past, never been highlighted as it is today. Decolonizing aid has become an important concern for humanitarian actors to ensure that the sovereign will and leadership of country and local actors are taken into consideration and given paramount significance. Aid is being redefined to be as direct as possible, without the need for any intermediaries such as INGOs.

But asking current intermediaries to step aside would be very difficult as it would eventually result in losing their reason for being and very existence in this humanitarian and development field. Ultimately, causing the old system to vanish.


Re-envisioned aid 

By radically shifting the mind-set and practice including the values and language, a new and emergent system is being co-created by actors and stakeholders involved. The Abot-Kamay Community Solidarity Fund (ACSF) is a promising and emboldening effort to advance community-led actions for community resilience, empowerment and development. Within it, four ingredients have been well-thought out as some of the ideas to pave the way for a new practice and model towards a new system.

The first and most important is the intentional and purposive prioritization and targeting of partners from communities and community organizations. These are the ones working at the grassroots level and building the agency of community people. In doing so, the natural default is changed. These are organizations who work just as hard in both normal and difficult times on agendas that matter to communities, with or without money. As such, access to funding support in simple and appropriate ways within the means of people’s organizations as opposed to being on the radar of big and medium-sized donors becomes a measure to flattening the playing field.


This is an excerpt from the blog written by Loreine B. Dela Cruz. The full piece is available on the #ShiftThePower Treehouse

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